East Block: First phase of restoration completed

East Block building exterior

Along with the West Block and the Centre Block, the East Block is one of several iconic Parliament buildings on Parliament Hill. It houses offices and meeting spaces for the Senate of Canada.

For the past 5 years, Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) has worked diligently to carry out much-needed renovations at the East Block. The first phase of restoration has now been completed. Most of the work was done on the exterior of the building, with some interior work within the Governor General’s entrance, as well as the southwest tower. PSPC’s conservation experts ensured that the highest heritage standards were upheld. All the work was done while senators continued to work inside their offices.

East Block lobby with mezzanine and chandelier
Construction manager next to completed copper roof and iron framework

New copper roofing was added and masonry repairs were carried out around the perimeter of the building. Ornate Gothic Revival-style iron spires and iron cresting were removed, repaired and reinstalled. Beautiful heritage doors and entryways were renovated, with automatic opening mechanisms and improved security added. Some stained-glass windows were also restored and reinstalled. Window frames were repaired and repainted or replaced.

Following the completion of this first phase, the southwest tower stands out more than ever, with its unique and impressive grotesques and decorative elements. It appears much as it must have when it was first built in 1865. In fact, the East Block remains the most intact building on Parliament Hill. It has had no major fire like the West Block and Centre Block. It has also had no major rehabilitation work done on it, except when the attic spaces were modified to accommodate third floor office spaces in the 1970s.

Southwest tower gleaming in the sunshine
One of the large grotesques seen inside the scaffolding before being repaired
A repaired grotesque featuring a fish with a new curved tail
Grotesques and decorative elements around the perimeter of a tower

The Royal Arms of the United Kingdom, above the main entrance facing the great lawn, was inspected, repaired and cleaned as well. This coat of arms speaks to the building’s age, pre-dating Confederation. The improved appearance of the Governor General’s entrance is important. This entrance is not only the main entrance to the building, but it has also historically served as the ceremonial entrance.

The text on a plaque at this entrance refers to its long and storied history: “This building, completed in 1865, was the Centre of Canada’s Government for 110 years. It housed the offices of the privy council, the Prime Minister, and until 1942, those of the Governor General. In 1981, Public Works Canada completed the restoration of the historic chambers and the renovation of the offices for parliamentarians.”

A plaque describing the history of the East Block
Workers inspecting the carving of the Royal Arms of the United Kingdom
Detail of the ornate carving of the Royal Arms of the United Kingdom
The Royal Arms of the United Kingdom above the main entrance to the building
TThe ceremonial key being tested in the restored heritage doors at the Governor General’s entrance

Next steps for the East Block

Exterior work that was not included in the first phase will be completed in the second phase, along with a full renovation of the interior. A seismic upgrade, improved mechanical and electrical systems, as well as accessibility will also be addressed. Finally, the building will be connected to the new Parliament Welcome Centre.

The repair, restoration and modernization of the East Block is an integral part of the Long Term Vision and Plan for the Parliamentary Precinct. For more information, visit the East Block project web page.

Page details

Date modified: